As skincare brand Tatcha opens its first counter in Hong Kong, founder Vicky Tsai tells us how choosing happiness helped create a range of unique products
It takes a certain type of gusto to recognise one’s true state of happiness (or lack thereof), even if doing so means leaving behind a high-level corporate job at a global beauty company to attain it. But that’s exactly what Vicky Tsai, founder of beauty brand Tatcha, did to find the qualities it takes to run a successful business.
“I was becoming more disillusioned with what I was doing each day. It wasn’t clear to me how my work was making a positive impact on the world, and I realised that for my life to feel meaningful my work also needed to have meaning,” she recalls. Meanwhile, having just recovered from a three-year battle against acute dermatitis through the use of strong medications such as steroids and antibiotics, she was told by doctors that the damage to her skin was irreversible. Fed up and discouraged, she woke up one morning and decided, “I choose happiness,” and quit her job.
Tsai set out to travel the world with no plans other than to discover what would make her happy – and found what she was looking for in Japan. “While in Kyoto, I was healed in the truest sense of the word – beautiful ingredients and timeless rituals that I was introduced to calm my skin, while the kindness and mindfulness of the people around me nourished my soul.” And with that came the birth of Tatcha, Tsai’s love letter to Japan – a beauty brand that brings simple yet effective products to the market that combine classical Japanese rituals with modern technology.
Stumbling on her newfound happiness, Tsai found it her mission to spread the love. “I feel very lucky to have had many opportunities in my life; my greatest joy is using those opportunities to help other people,” she explains. “We created Tatcha because we wanted people to feel beautiful in their own skin and share practices of wellbeing that were healing us from our skin to our soul.” Tsai’s altruistic and care-giving qualities didn’t just stem from her journey of self-discovery, but were imprinted at a much younger age. “As a child, I wanted to be a doctor – it’s a wonderful way to take care of people. I think the human body is endlessly fascinating and miraculous.”
Although Tsai spent the first years of her adulthood building a résumé at high-performance companies, she felt out of place. She took considerable risks to leave the corporate world, but in the end it enabled her to find her true calling and establish Tatcha.
“As it turned out, the biggest hurdle to my career was not walking away from a company that didn’t let me get creative with my own work”. So how did this newfound passion turn into the half-billiondollar business (Tatcha was sold to Unilever last year) and how does she run the show today? By providing authentic products, she replies.
Tsai is religiously hands-on when it comes to Tatcha, meticulously delivering her products from the first kernels of ideas all the way to marketing and distribution. “As a brand with roots in classical Japanese beauty culture and the modernism of California, Hong Kong is the perfect place to celebrate this dual concept,” she adds. Tatcha entered Hong Kong in 2013, first at Joyce Beauty. Last month, it opened its first brand-owned counter in Lane Crawford at ifc mall. “People in Hong Kong are very global – they know what it’s like to be rooted in two cultures and are among the most sophisticated clients in the world, who understand the science behind skin health.”
From its first product, the Original Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers (the same used by geishas in Japan), the range has expanded to encompass cleansers, balms, serums, creams and masks. Today, Tatcha is best known for its Water Cream (an oil-free, anti-ageing day cream that releases a burst of hydration to the skin) and the Rice Polish (a water-activated exfoliant of nourishing Japanese rice bran that lathers up into a creamy cleansing foam and which won a Prestige Beauty & Wellness Award this year.
With flawless skin herself, it’s hard to imagine how this young entrepreneur once suffered chronic psoriasis without a trace of evidence on her face. When asked about her personal go-to, she says, “I love [all my products], but if I had to choose a favourite, it would be The Essence, or our proprietory Hadasei-3 antiageing complex, made from a fermentation of uji green tea, mozuku (edible brown sea algae) from Okinawa and akita rice.” The product is said to be absorbed in just seven seconds to transform the skin, plumping it with hydration and making any treatment you apply afterwards more effective. Tsai credits her immaculate complexion not just to Tatcha, but also her devout daily regimen: “When you add intention to your beauty routine, you elevate it to a ritual.”
Vicky Tsai’s Skincare Routine
It varies depending on season and location, but Tsai first understands the need of her skin to tailor the products she uses. However, being a minimalist she believes less is more and her routine doesn’t stray too far from her classic ritual.
1. I start with The Classic Rice Polish to exfoliate
2. Follow with The Essence
3. Apply The Silk Cream
1. Remove make-up using the Pure One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and Classic Rice Polish
2. Follow with The Essence and the Violet-C Brightening Serum
3. Lock in moisture with The Silk Cream and The Silk Peony Eye Cream